[Seoul’s best coffee shops] Travertine; 트래버틴

At a time when my heart was hurt, Travertine picked up the broken pieces and mended them back together. With delicious coffee, with warm smiles, with happy memories, my heart felt whole again and I again felt like everyday was a bright new day with endless possibilities.

Welcome to Travertine, a cafe whose old-tiled roof is merged with sleek glass walls and a modern design, and whose name is borrowed from the type of limestone used in its space.

It stands alongside old buildings, which line a narrow road in the Yongsan district of Seoul, and sits perfectly amongst the ginkgo trees. Trees that reflect each season distinctly. During the spring and summer, they showcase leaves with differing hues of green; during the fall, a fiery yellow; and during the winter, they shed their leaves, waiting patiently for the warmer months when they can share their magnificent colours yet again.

[I chose this location for Travertine because] I liked the harmony between the old and new atmosphere, which is a characteristic of this development-restricted area. And among these houses, I liked the old tiled-roofed house with an open front the best.

이승목 (Seung Mok Lee), owner

Opening hours
Daily 12:00pm – 7:30pm
(last order 7:00pm)

A common purpose: coffee

Travertine brings a new dimension into Seoul’s coffee scene.

The value they put on coffee is explicitly apparent, but Travertine also brings something else to the table: a value in creating relationships with their customers.

Valuing both coffee and relationships brings Travertine to a new level, which only a select few coffee shops in Seoul can match.

They’ve created a space to not only appreciate a cup of quality coffee, but to also make meaningful relationships over that same cup.

I like it in Travertine because I feel at ease. This isn’t to say that we aren’t busy. The reason I feel this way is because all of our colleagues and customers have a common purpose in being here: coffee. So, no matter how busy the store gets, or how much work we have to do, I still feel relaxed. With this kind of atmosphere, I can focus on the coffee that I make and take in the store’s environment and customers.

주영 (Jooyoung), barista at Travertine

I hope that you can come to the cafe and enjoy a nice cup of coffee, surrounded by the warmth that people share. During these days, when traveling is not easy, I hope that it can be like a short trip.

이승목 (Seung Mok Lee), owner

La Cabra: a delicate and dynamic balance

“At [Travertine] craftsmanship takes main stage as they brew our coffees daily.” – La Cabra Coffee

Travertine has partnered with La Cabra to bring to Seoul a distinct flavour of quality coffee.

Since establishing themselves in Aarhus (Denmark), La Cabra Coffee Roasters has been dedicated to bringing an honest and novel approach to coffee and has aimed to bring out a delicate and dynamic balance in every coffee they create.

One of my favourite things about Travertine is that it can provide delicious coffee. Delicious coffee that you can get easily without having to travel far. Delicious coffee that we can recommend according to your taste.

지나 (Jeena), barista at Travertine

Esben Piper, the founder of La Cabra Coffee Roasters, took time out of his busy schedule for me to speak with him. Below are some of his thoughts and insights.

What is La Cabra’s approach to coffee?

“It’s about an honest, natural, and sincere expression of coffee flavours.”

Esben Piper, founder of La Cabra

We take on an approach where you just let the raw materials speak for themselves. Where you try to highlight everything that goes before brewing a cup of coffee. So, everything that happens in the ground, the soil, the wet mill – we want these aspects to be communicated. We want to highlight the original and inner quality of the coffee, and we don’t want to mask anything.

To put it simply, we just want to speak about the raw materials and let them shine through in every possible way.

Where do you source your beans? How do you choose?

When it’s not a global pandemic, we try to travel as much as we can. We try to travel to 7-8 different origins each year – looking at quality, practices, sustainability – and we try to find new producers almost every time we travel. We try to see how we can get the most interesting and exciting flavours, as well as nurture the relationships we started years and years ago.

And it’s all about that cupping table. It’s all about finding new flavours that excite us.

This process takes a lot of time. We have 3 people from our company that source coffees. And, of course, there’s a lot of communicating to begin with before we make a decision to go to a new country or a new part of a country. We try to research a bit, we also try to cup some coffees before we go and evaluate their quality. And then it’s all about building up some trust and building a relationship together with the producer.

It’s all about finding clean coffees. That’s the starting point. As long as we can see that there’s a very solid starting point, we know that there is potential and that there is something we can work with.

From there, we can start experimenting with various processing methods and with different ways of doing the craft. It’s very easy to taste if we have a solid and healthy soil, if we have good practices, if the coffees are ripe and fermented correctly, if they are dried properly. If these things are not in order, it will tell in the final cup. It’s all about finding farms that take pride in producing a clean cup of coffee and, from there, we start building a relationship so we can experiment more with the producer.

A box of La Cabra coffee (Ethiopia - Bensa Logita)
How does roasting affect coffee flavour?

What we really want to do when we roast, is simply to unveil the quality. What we want to do is to release everything that’s in there already. We don’t think we can make a coffee better than the starting point. But, we simply want to unveil the quality and unleash it, so to speak. We don’t want to mask it or manipulate it. Instead, we want to highlight what happens in the soil, the washing station, and in the drying process.

We want all the natural flavours in the seed to be present when we brew the cup of coffee. And we only think we can do that by roasting it very lightly and gently.

A latte paired with an apple cinnamon pound cake at Travertine
A latte paired with an apple cinnamon pound cake.
What were your thoughts when you visited Travertine?

I’m really proud of the collaboration with Travertine because the way that they work is just such a beautiful and natural extension of how we try to push the coffee culture forward.

And I think that the attention to detail, the whole experience, the whole universe that Travertine has created, is really special.

For us, it’s a very unique and special relationship.

And so, seeing Travertine for the first time and experiencing this sort of lifestyle and this attention to detail was really special for me. I like everything about it. I like the vibe, the energy, the design, the overall universe is so special. And it was great to also just see when we talk about this approach to coffee and coffee culture and see them do this in Seoul. It feels super motivating and feels very dynamic. It’s really great.

Your trip to Seoul wouldn’t be complete without visiting Travertine.
Make sure to stop by to enjoy delicious coffee and have wonderful conversations with the friendly staff.

For more coffee shop recommendations, click this link.